Working with the fifth graders at Leal, I have begun to realize the challenges that come with being integrated into mainstream classrooms when a child’s native language is not English. Every week I help students with their vocabulary and spelling homework. Some of these students are Spanish speakers and others only speak English. Nonetheless, I speak English with all of these students because that is how I am able to help them best in completing their work. I usually help them with general definitions and grammar corrections. In the first grade classroom, I try to speak in Spanish whenever I am given the opportunity. It helps me in practicing my speaking abilities, but I feel bad when I am not able to think of a phrase or word to help a student with their assignment. For example, there was an activity involving words to be placed under different categories describing what different animals ate, where they lived, and what they looked like. I could not think of words like “rainforest” or “spots.” In those types of situations, I will try and work my way around a difficult word by using my limited vocabulary to describe the concept. Other times I will ask another volunteer in the classroom who is more proficient in speaking to help me in think of a word. Although I am not able to always help the students with certain homework assignments, one activity that I am confident in doing is reading.
Being an elementary education major, I love reading with the students in small groups and pairs. There are certain books that I even remember from my own childhood, such as “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” When I was asked to organize the books during a recess break, I was not surprised to find that most of the books were in Spanish. What I was more intrigued by were the books that contained both Spanish and English translations side by side. The book in the given image is an example of a bilingual children’s book. Sometimes the students would ask me to read in Spanish with them, and other times I would be read in English. Helping them with the English was not as hard as I would have thought because most of the students were able to sound out words they did not know and were fairly proficient in understanding the storylines. In reading with the students in Spanish, I felt a little self-conscious in pronouncing some of the words or reading slower than they did. All in all, I really enjoy helping the children in practicing their English because it helps me in understanding how children develop linguistically. This is especially important in my own career if I were to work with ESL (English as a second language) student.
It helps to destress when I am able to watch the kids at recess or observe the teachers in the classrooms. I have learned how much work goes into being a teacher and successfully attending to each child’s needs. Grading some of the homework one day helped me in seeing just how tedious it is to correct simple homework assignments. I have learned so much about myself as a Spanish student and as a future leader in the classroom.